February theater picks
The smash-hit Broadway sensation finally touches down in Chicago. With Tony-winning music from composers Benj Paul and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen’s titular teen is just another lonely, socially awkward guy—until a classmate’s suicide grants him the popularity he’s always wanted. Too bad it’s all based on lie. This national touring production is only in town for a limited four-week engagement at the newly christened Nederlander Theatre, so get your tickets now.
Gary is keeping a big secret from his husband, Ben: Every night when he goes to bed, he's having intimate dreams about the vice president. Dan Giles new play, directed here in its world premiere by Hutch Pimentel, isn’t offering audiences a vacation from our current dystopia, but it is giving them a chance to laugh at it.
It’s hard not to look at The Man Who Was Thursday with suspicion. After all, how did a play about anarchist cults and government spies so perfectly attuned for 2019 manage to premiere all the way back in 2009? Were writer Bilal Dardil and director Jessica Hutchinson tipped off to some kind of vast Illuminati plan? And what of the fact that the two are now remounting Dardil’s rollicking G.K Chesterton adaptation at Lifeline Theatre? Do they know something we don’t? In order to solve this mystery, you’ll just to have see the show. Trust us: you won’t regret it.
Stew’s autobiographical rock musical, Passing Strange, co-written with Heidi Rodewald, is a serious contender for Best Musical of the 21st Century (non-Hamilton division). Now the pair’s follow-up, The Total Bent, is making its Midwest debut at Haven Theatre. The storyline follows a young musician trying to escape the shadow of his famous gospel star father. This production is directed by Lili-Anne Brown, whose recent revival of Caroline, or Change earned raves across town, including five stars from us.
Dominique Morisseau is one of the hottest playwrights in the country right now, and her beautiful play Pipeline—about a public school teacher, Nya, trying desperately to carve out a brighter future for her son—will leave you with zero doubt as to why. Cheryl Lynn Bruce directs for Victory Gardens.
A group of black jazz musicians gather to record sessions for singer Ma Rainey in 1920s Chicago. As technical difficulties mount, friendly banter turns to more pointed barbs and tensions spiral out of control. The play is one of August Wilson’s best, and in the hands of director Ron OJ Parson, it’s as sure a bet as any.
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House famously ends with “the door slam heard ‘round the world,” when housewife Nora leaves her husband Torvald for good. Lucas Hnath’s Tony-nominated sequel, on the other hand, begins with a knock. Nora’s back. Sandra Marquez stars in this Chicago premiere from director Robin Witt at Steppenwolf.
If you’re not yet familiar with local actress Sydney Charles, then her portrayal of singer/activist/icon Nina Simone is the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself. Christina Ham’s play chronicles Simon’s political awakening, which led to her powerful Civil Rights anthems such as “Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”
In this dark existential comedy from Kareem Bandealy, a traditional nuclear family receives a mysterious envelope informing them of a very special guest coming for dinner. As they scramble to welcome their cosmic visitor, things start to get just a wee bit absurd. Like any good dark comedy, this show is best suited for audience members who are 13 and up.
In this new world premiere from Rebecca Gilman, six women in a small-town Wisconsin bowling alley face the trials of adulthood and the consequences of the different paths they choose. Heather Chrisler stars as the college-bound Sam alongside Becca Savoy as Sam’s not-so-college-bound cousin Jaycee.